GEA: 2011 Job Growth in Geothermal Steady

The geothermal industry has its fair share of labor issues. Because of competition for workers and equipment with the oil and gas industries, there often aren’t enough skilled people to develop power plants. The problem is particularly bad in developing countries.

In the U.S., however, the geothermal industry is set to add thousands of new workers, according to a report released today by the Geothermal Energy Association. Aided by strong government support and new training programs at colleges and universities, the organization says that geothermal companies will add jobs faster than in the conventional energy sector.

While 2010 was a down year for geothermal (the final figures aren’t out, but GEA says that installed capacity will be less than 2009’s 176 MW), the number of projects in the pipeline has increased. The trade group says that around 3,800 direct and indirect jobs will be created in 2011, mostly in Nevada and California.

GEA reported that the federal stimulus, tax incentives, and strong state renewable standards are fueling the growth in geothermal power and job creation. Every geothermal project that came online in 2009 took advantage of the tax reimbursement provisions of the stimulus bill, which helped maintain momentum for new projects. Four of the top five states with geothermal power under development have substantial renewable electricity standards.

GEA also pointed out that the benefits of the stimulus to the geothermal industry have yet to be fully realized. About 95% of the projects receiving ARRA funding are either less than 50% complete or have yet to break ground.

As more geothermal industry jobs are being created, a number of colleges and universities across the country are emerging with undergraduate, graduate, and certification programs related to geothermal. GEA also compiled the “US Geothermal Education and Training Guide” that details 22 undergraduate and graduate programs at U.S. colleges and universities. Additionally, 31 schools have research opportunities in geothermal studies available to students. will be at the upcoming Geothermal Energy Conference and Expo in Sacramento next week. We’ll be video and podcast reporting on job growth, the stimulus package, financial concerns and a variety of other issues impacting the industry.